This blog post was written by Asta Garmon, OEA Choice Trust’s School Employee Wellness (SEW) Program Manager. The SEW Grant program is one way OEA Choice Trust serves public school employees in Oregon.


School Employee Well-being and Resilience

Here at OEA Choice Trust we have the privilege and honor of working with public K-12 districts, educational service districts (ESDs) and community colleges across the state. In our conversations with educators, the need for staff well-being and resiliency surfaces time and again.

Many people are familiar with the idea of individual resilience – someone who can not only handle setbacks but grow and improve with each challenge. However, there is a growing need for resiliency in the workplace.

What does that look like in an education setting? A resilient workplace is one that can not only withstand a negative or traumatic event, but it is also supportive, empathetic and purpose driven. Resilient workplaces don’t just depend on resilient employees. Instead, they create systems and opportunities that promote resilience as a group. This group resilience is called organizational resilience.

Individual resiliency includes these qualities:

  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Seeking help and resources
  • Seeing yourself as resilient rather than as a victim
  • Quality relationships with students, colleagues, friends and family
  • Self-care to cope with stress in healthy ways and promote total well-being
  • Finding positive meaning in your life despite difficult events

A school employee’s individual resilience can be supported by a resilient work place.

Students choosing healthy food options in school lunch line

Resilient organizational cultures encourage all employees — from the superintendent to the bus drivers — to take care of their physical, mental and emotional health. Such cultures also implement practices and systems where staff are valued, supported, recognized and actively involved in decisions that lead to healthy, safe and positive school environments.

Characteristics of resilient workplaces include:

  • Provide opportunities for meaningful participation
  • Increase bonding or connectedness
  • Set clear and consistent boundaries
  • Teach life skills
  • Provide care and support
  • Set and communicate high and realistic expectations
How an SEW Grant Can Help

OEA Choice Trust can help public K-12 school districts, ESDs and community colleges develop systems that support both individual and collective well-being and resilience through grants. OEA Choice Trust offers the School Employee Wellness (SEW) Grant to design locally tailored, employee health, well-being and resilience programs.

Awarded K-12 districts, ESDs and community colleges receive:

  • Up to $100,000 to spend over a five-year period (up to $30,000 each year)
  • Unparalleled technical assistance and support to achieve local goals
  • Networking and learning through our annual Journey to Wellness grantee meeting each October

Because we know that employee health promotion and worksite wellness is not an area of expertise for most people working in the public education setting, each grantee receives ongoing support and coaching from the OEA Choice Trust team.

It’s important to note that there is no prescriptive way to develop your employee wellness program. If your district/organization is awarded a grant, the Trust team offers ideas, best practices and expertise to help each grantee implement and evaluate a program that works for their organization, always keeping in mind that grantees know their district and community best.

Group of people walking together outside

How Grantees Created Culture Shifts

Here are some ways that grantees have used funds to support well-being and resilience:

  • Tillamook School District – One way this district is supporting staff well-being and resilience is by expanding their mentoring program to include and retain mid-career teachers. The mentoring has helped create new bonds and meaningful connection between staff. Part of the mentoring program is a focus on collective-care strategies and promotion of individual well-being.
  • Rainier School District – This district used healthy meal prepping to address stress and boost social and emotional well-being. Staff got together at a designated site to prepare and freeze meals that could be easily thawed and cooked later, saving them time and providing them with healthy options to share with their families. In addition to supporting employees’ physical well-being, these events taught life skills and gave staff a chance to socialize. Meal prep events were held several times throughout the school year.
  • Central Curry School District – This district provided care and support by creating Cocoon Rooms where staff could take breaks to practice self-care. The Cocoon Rooms have massage chairs and other relaxation resources. Administrators step in to cover for employees so they have time during their workday to use the Cocoon Rooms.

Read more about how these districts developed effective SEW program on our Success Stories page.

Laughing group of people taking a cooking class

Resources for Applying

The following resources can be found on the Employee Health and Well-being page. These resources can help you submit a successful application.

  • Blueprint for School Employee Wellness – This guide lays out 6 steps for developing a successful employee wellness program.
  • Staff Wellness Needs and Interest Survey – This customizable survey can be used to determine what staff are most interested in regarding individual and workplace wellness.
  • Framework of Proven Strategies and Best Practices – A guide of proven strategies and best practices to promote the health, well-being and resilience of school
    employees. Strategies and best practices are categorized as applying to individual and groups, workplace environment and policies.

The following resources can be found on the Grant Program page.

  • Scoring Rubric – Strengthen your application by reviewing how it will be assessed.
  • SMART Objective Tip Sheet – Part of a strong action plan is developing clear SMART objectives. Use this tip sheet to help create strong SMART objectives.

For an application, visit the Grant Program page.

A webinar about this grant opportunity will be held at 3:00 pm on September 19, 2019. Attendees will get a walk-through of the application process and have time to ask questions. Webinar registration will include access to a recording of the presentation.

Our grant due dates for the 2019-2020 school year are November 5, 2019 and April 15, 2020.

For more information on the School Employee Wellness Grant program, feel free to reach out to Asta Garmon, School Employee Wellness Program Manager, at

References and Related Reading:

Fostering Healthy, Resilient Schools to Address Chronic Stress – OEA Choice Trust position paper

Organizational Resilience: Reducing the Impact of Secondary Trauma on Front Line Human Services Staff – SAMHSA